After watching the first couple possessions by the Detroit Lions against the Baltimore Ravens, I thought that I would be ripping the first stringers this week. The offense had another slow start. This happened regularly last season as well.
Fortunately, after two possessions, the Lions offense found their spark in the usual place. Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson on a long pass and the offense started moving. This bothers me because it is too predictable. The only thing that saves the Lions is that nobody has really stopped it.
I refuse to accept that this is how the Lions offense will always be. That would make an injury to Calvin Johnson disastrous. The Lions need to find a spark from other players too. Even better, they should start fast out of the gate and get rid of the warm-up period.
Both teams played sloppy football. There were far too many penalties. There were far too many missed assignments. It's good that I love football so much because this game was ugly, but even ugly football is fun to me.
Matthew Stafford was very good, but he made one play that I would call a bad decision. Stafford threw a ball to Brandon Pettigrew on the sideline that was almost picked off for a Ravens touchdown. If Stafford had waited just a split second longer, he would have had Keiland Williams open in the middle of the field for a first down. Stafford should have thrown the ball higher so that either Pettigrew caught it or it sailed out of bounds.
Shaun Hill was solid but had more trouble moving the offense this week. He was still in command of what the Lions were doing. The execution by the rest of the offensive players needs to improve.
Kellen Moore looked better against the Ravens than he did in the first game. His receivers did not drop as many passes and the running game gave him some help. Moore still has a long way to go, but he showed that he has the ability to learn and adjust. If he continues to improve at this pace he might just make the cut.
I am often tempted to be critical of the quarterback play, then I remember Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper. I think of Dan Orlovsky stepping out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Then I count my blessings and realize that life is good for the Lions with Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill.
The first-team offensive line was solid in pass blocking but inconsistent in run blocking. That should sound familiar at this point. It was nice to see Riley Reiff break into the first-team offensive line for one series. The moment he stepped on the field with that unit the run blocking was upgraded, no matter what position he played.
Stephen Peterman had a bad whiff on a run block that caused Kevin Smith to get gobbled up in the backfield. Peterman also had a couple good run blocks, but he needs to get rid of those moments where he makes bad mistakes that create bad down and distance situations. I originally thought that Rob Sims blew this play in the live game thread, but it was actually Peterman. I stand corrected.
The second-team offensive line was not as good as last week. They had problems adjusting to some of the Ravens blitz packages and allowed more pressure on Shaun Hill than they should. The pressure on Hill had a lot to do with his inability to maintain long drives as he did against the Browns.
Kevin Smith was good again this week. I love how this guy picks up a blitz and gives Stafford time to pass. He is easily the best blocker of all the Lions running backs we have seen in the preseason. Even when Smith slips out for a pass during a blitz he quickly finds the open space to give Stafford an outlet pass. The Lions need Smith to stay healthy, for once, because he is a really good all-around running back.
Keiland Williams was not as good as he was last game, but he was still very solid. He is safely on course to make the roster at this point. I am glad because the Lions will really need him if the running backs continue to be banged up as they have.
Joique Bell was very good in the Ravens game. His fumble at the goal line was a disappointing end to a very nice run. At first I thought it was a bad fumble by Bell. After reviewing the play I realized the ball was hit perfectly by the helmet of the defender to knock it loose. Plays like this cause Jim Schwartz to say that fumbles just happen. Bell didn't really make a mistake on the play. It was just a good defensive play by the other team.
Stefan Logan had a disappointing night. He did not make much of an impact as a running back or receiver. Logan dropped a pass on third down that would have killed the Lions drive if it weren't for a Ravens penalty. The most memorable play by Logan, in the Lions offense, was when he ran into Matthew Stafford on a busted play. Logan was hurt on the play. If the injury is serious it could open a spot for another running back to make the team until Mikel Leshoure returns from his suspension or Jahvid Best is cleared to play.
Stephfon Green opened a few eyes with a big run toward the end of the game. It may have been garbage time, but there was no mistaking that speed. That may earn Green more opportunities in practice and preseason games. If Green can pick up a blitz then he is in business. If he can't then he is Aaron Brown version two, but he won't get the time that Brown had to prove himself. The Lions are a better team now and they didn't spend a draft pick on Green. While Green helped his cause in this game, he is still likely to be a practice squad player if the injury situation does not give him a roster spot. Even then he is likely to only stick around until Mikel Leshoure is back from his suspension.
Brandon Pettigrew had a bad penalty when he was called for being an ineligible receiver downfield. He was covered up by Calvin Johnson from the moment they lined up. Pettigrew had to know he can't go out on a pass pattern from that alignment. That is a mental mistake that should not happen. Other than that one mistake, Pettigrew was solid.
Will Heller made a bad drop on a third down that forced the Lions to punt. Sometimes the mistakes that players make are magnified by the situation that they are in. I don't care who you are, when the ball is thrown to you on third down you have to catch it.
Calvin Johnson was his usual dominant self. We have come to expect amazing plays from Johnson and he almost always delivers. Johnson owned Jimmy Smith during the game. He stole Smith's lunch money, bought candy with it, then ate it in front of him. It isn't the first time Calvin has schooled a cornerback and it won't be the last.
Ryan Broyles was good in his first game action with the Lions. Broyles did not play a lot, but his presence was felt on the field when he was in. He ran good routes, got separation from the defender, and caught the ball cleanly. It was a solid debut for the Lions second-round pick. He displayed the reliability and efficiency that was his hallmark at Oklahoma. He will be a great addition to the Lions if he just continues to perform as he did in his first game.
Titus Young had a nice touchdown catch where he broke a tackle and displayed good balance to get into the end zone. It is clear that Titus likes to be in the spotlight, but we already knew that. Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler better take note because Young may compete with them to be the end zone party master.
We depend on Jason Hanson and he almost always comes through. There isn't a competition for the kicker spot and Derek Dimke will be cut. The only question is when the cut will happen. I doubt that Dimke will survive the cut down to 75 players.
The kickoff coverage team started the game well by stopping Jacoby Jones short of the 20-yard line on a return. It's too bad they couldn't build on that to play consistently afterward. The Lions surrendered a long kickoff return just before halftime but were saved by a Ravens penalty.
The battle for the punter position is still going between Ryan Donahue and Ben Graham. Donahue got an edge in that battle by making a couple of superb punts this week. Graham surrendered a long return on one punt where he was saved by a Ravens penalty.
It is going to be very important that the punter is excellent because the coverage guys are terrible. Danny Crossman has to get the punt and kick coverage guys sorted out or they are going to cost the Lions some games in the regular season. Jim Schwartz voiced his displeasure with the special teams coverage units very clearly. If they don't get this fixed there are going to be some heads rolling.
Stefan Logan had one good kickoff return that got the ball out near the 40-yard line, but it was nullified by a penalty.
Willie Young blocked a punt to give the Lions excellent starting field position at the Ravens 34-yard line.